This paper addresses the proposed transfer of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) oversight away from the US government, explores how the technical architecture of critical Internet resources has certain governance implications, and introduces the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and its relationship with the US government through the IANA function and the Affirmation of Commitments. There is work underway within ICANN to find a successor oversight mechanism and there are issues with ICANN's accountability, in particular the recognition that IANA transition was to be dependent on ICANN’s wider accountability and how this exposed trust issues between community and leadership.

The paper recommends the following: any solution for IANA oversight should apply to all current IANA functions to avoid risk of fragmentation; a culture of trust can be built by developing numerous horizontal and vertical accountability checks and balances; ICANN the corporation’s interest should be aligned with the public interest by introducing a membership that reflects the diversity of ICANN’s community; ICANN’s membership should have the power to recall individual directors and approve changes to bylaws; and the effectiveness of financial transparency and oversight should be strengthened. 

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The Global Commission on Internet Governance was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. The two-year project conducted and supported independent research on internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report that articulates concrete policy recommendations for the future of Internet governance.
  • Emily Taylor is an internet governance expert and an associate fellow of Chatham House. She has worked in the domain name industry since 1999.